Olivia Hughes did not have a background in computers when she started going to the University of North Texas to be a material science major. “The high school I went to didn’t really have that big of a computer program,” Olivia said. “The computer class I took was basically just an amped up version of how to use Microsoft Word, so I barely had touched most computer things when I first started.” So when Olivia was trying to figure out what she was eventually going to do with her material sciences degree, she ended up going to a Society of Women Engineers meeting and someone was there talking about what they did as a Business Systems Analyst. “I was like ‘Oh, that sounds like fun, so what do I need to do to do that?’ so I looked into the programs and I found the IT in Computer Science program. I hate biology so I did the IT program,” Olivia said. The very next day, she switched her major to IT.
Soon after, Olivia got an invitation to join a cybersecurity club, and after attending a few meetings, she decided that she would specialize in security. “I had never touched a piece of programming. I had looked at being an accountant before I was going into material science and then when I saw how coding worked, it felt similar to how accounting work[s] and [I] figured I could figure it out from there,” Olivia said. “I learned really fast.”
Olivia is now the president of her cybersecurity club, which she expanded from 20 people when she joined to 70 or 80 people now. She is expecting to graduate in May with a degree in Information Technology, a minor in Business and a certificate in security. She even has a job as a Security Analyst at Citi waiting for her when she graduates.
“They [Citigroup] recruited me through UNT,” Olivia said. “They sent out [via email] to the computer science department ‘we need people interested in cybersecurity,’ so I responded to that email and then they got me in for an internship. I did the internship and at the end they offered me the position for their 2 year analyst program.”
For Olivia, what she does is her passion, “For me, it matters what I’m doing. I don’t want to have to go to a job where I dread going to work. I want a job where I wake up on Monday morning and I’m like, ‘yeah, I’m ready to go to work!’ So it’s more about being in something you enjoy and then, when you go and see the average salary for IT and security, it’s just a really nice bonus.”
And who knows how far she will go. Going through the program, her outlook completely changed. According to her, it went from “not knowing anything about computers to becoming an expert in how to code.”
In conclusion, Olivia says, “My end goal was to get into cybersecurity. That [has] already happened, so I guess the rest of my goal is to keep working my way up.”